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Crime Stoppers: Tacoma police seeking witness in bizarre hit and run death

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I have a feeling that out of all the cases I've written about in the Tacoma Weekly, this will be the one you help solve. It's strange to be sure. It was just after midnight on Oct. 4, 2008 when Ronald McKellar and his friend left Peewee's Tavern on 72nd street in Tacoma.

“This was on a really dark, rainy blustery October evening,” recalls Det. Vicki Chittick, who talked Washington's Most Wanted Cold Case Correspondent Parella Lewis. “Ronald’s friend decided he needed to leave and catch the last bus before they stop running to go home.”

The two left the tavern together and started walking across the street to the bus stop. “Ronald’s friend was wearing a bright yellow rain suit and he crosses the street directly from the tavern over to the bus stop and as he reaches the curb, he hears Ron call out his name. He looks back and he sees Ron approximately in the turn lane following him across the street,” Det. Chittick explains. “His back is to Ron and he hears a thud noise, and he turns around and he sees a car driving off and Ron’s gone.”

Just like that, in a matter of seconds, McKellar had vanished into the night almost without a trace.

“He’s like, ‘What just happened and where’s my friend?'”

As he looked around, he discovered Ron’s hat nearby, but still no sign of the man who was just a few feet behind him before he just disappeared. Then someone spotted a man lying in the middle of the road 12 blocks away. Det. Chittick says, “Medical got a call that there was a body at 64th and C Street.” It was McKellar. He somehow got caught under a car and was dragged more than half a mile.

Police are still trying to piece together how something like this happens. Det. Chittick isn’t sure but says, “It’s a possibility that if you didn’t see him, it was dark and he was wearing dark clothing, if for some reason he stopped in the roadway and knelt down, perhaps. It’s a long way to drag something under your car, but if you were under the influence it’s possible that you might not have known. There’s just no way of knowing until we have more information.”

There was a witness who may have seen everything. He was driving a grey Jeep Cherokee and pulled into the Rite Aid parking lot. Another woman who lived nearby had run across the street when she heard the crash to see if everyone was okay. She describes the witness in the jeep as being an older white man, approximately in his 50’s, with gray hair and was wearing a gray jacket and jeans. She asked him if he was all right or needed help and he said, ‘I’m not part of the accident. A car just hit a pedestrian, but we don’t have a pedestrian here so everybody’s wondering what happened," said Det. Chittick.

The driver of the Cherokee left before police arrived, but they would love to talk to him now. Det. Chittick says, “There was just a strange coincidence that there was no video or no employees or any witnesses during that 15 minute window. There were a lot of businesses in the area at that time, there was a Pizza Time and there was a movie theater, and the timing was that a lot of businesses closed and their employees left at midnight or people didn’t come back until 12:30 a.m. and for some reason that 15 minute window of time, just disappeared.”

Police are hoping to turn a series of bad decisions, or just bad luck, into answers and find out who killed Ronald McKellar. “We’re just asking for anybody that knows anything about who that gentlemen might be or anything about the case. We just haven’t had any leads. We had a lot of tips initially, a lot of cars that people thought. There’s video at certain locations that we pulled but everybody’s vehicle that we thought was a suspected vehicle or involved turned out to be unrelated,” Det. Chittick said.

McKellar’s friend described the car he saw driving away after hearing a thud as a light-colored or tan 1980s Ford Thunderbird. If you know anything about this crime or know the man who witnessed it in the gray Cherokee, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-TIPS.